Cardinal Gibbons HC Matt DuBuc holds up the team’s second straight Class 4A State Championship and the team’s third state title in four years on Thu. Dec. 16, 2021 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. [Joshua Wilson/FloridaHSFootball.com]

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In the first of five state championship games taking place this weekend at DRV PNK Stadium home of Inter Miami CF, the matchup between the Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs and the Cocoa Tigers was a nail biter to the very end Thursday night.

In the end, Cardinal Gibbons (11-2) came away with a hard fought 21-19 victory over Cocoa (11-2) that gave the Chiefs their second straight Class 4A State Championship and their third state championship victory in the last four years.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

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CHIEFS NEVER TRAILED ONCE

For Cardinal Gibbons, they did not trail once in the entire game, opening their first drive nicely that was capped off with a 17-yard touchdown reception by Jesse Anderson to Dylan Rizk to take a 7-0 lead with 8:07 left in the first quarter.

Cocoa, for the first drive, took up a huge chunk of time, taking off 7:31 when OJ Ross scored on his only touchdown of the night from three yards out that would give him his 37 rushing touchdowns on the season with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

For the second and third quarters, both the Chiefs and Tigers held each other in check defensively not allowing any points to be scored.

However, it did not take long for Cardinal Gibbons to finally get more points on the board and retake the lead early in the fourth quarter when Kamari Moulton would find paydirt from 14 yards out to put the Chiefs up 14-7 with 10:41 to go.

The Tigers weren’t ready to fold at all as they came back on the next drive with an eight play 47-yard drive that brought the Tigers within one point 14-13 after a gamble on a two-point conversion.

The ensuing drives would result in exchange of punts or in the case of Cocoa failing to convert on fourth down at their own 20 that gave the Chiefs the ball with 3:52 left in the game. In four plays, Moulton would take it in from eight yards out to put the Chiefs up 21-13 with 2:22 to go.

And again, the Tigers were not ready to fold.

The Tigers only needed four plays and a Davin Wynder 72 yards pass to Kyon Calhoun that brought the score 21-19 with 1:57 left that left the Tigers reeling after a second failed two-point conversion.

FAILED TWO POINT CONVERSIONS HURT COCOA

If there was a defining point in this game for Cocoa, it was the two-failed two-point conversions that kept the Tigers from winning their first state championship game since 2016 and marked their third straight loss in state championship game dating back to the 2017 and 2018 games that came at the hands of Raines.

Both two-point conversions plays came on outside and similar style play that were ran to the outside and both times Cardinal Gibbons was ready.

On the second two-point conversion play, the Tigers were just inches away from the end zone, with the play being dead sending the Chiefs into celebration mode with thousands of fans and supporters sitting in the stands.

CARDINAL GIBBONS DEFENSE STIFFLING

The Chiefs’ defense played one of the most impressive defensive games of the four state championship games played so far for the 2021 season.

Broc Weaver was the name that was getting a ton of mentions by everyone in the game who collected up four sacks, four tackles for loss, and had seven total tackles in the game.

Weaver’s sacks were important as most of them were drive killers for Cocoa.

When looking at the overall numbers of the Chiefs’ defense, they collected up 66 tackles, seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss, five pass breakups and 10 quarterback hurries.

And for good measure, Cocoa’s defense couldn’t bring as much pressure in the game on the Chiefs and only had 51 tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception.

As they say, defense wins state championships.

MOULTON SHINES FOR CARDINAL GIBBONS OFFENSE

Kamari Moulton who came into the game with 904 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns with 11 games played added to his total tonight to bring home over 1,000 yards to finish the season.

Moulton had 28 carries for 173 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the game to bring his 2021 numbers to 1,077 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns for the season.

ATTENDANCE UP TO START SERIES IN FORT LAUDERDALE

Attendance for the Class 4A state championship was up three-and-half times compared to the numbers of the 2020 state championship game in Tallahassee at Doak S. Campbell Stadium (1,344) and the 2019 state championship game in Daytona Beach (1,910).

The announced attendance for the night was 4,533 which included a good majority on the Cardinal Gibbons side while Cocoa also brought out a good number of fans coming from two and half hours away down Interstate 95.

This could be the start of some of the highest numbers the FHSAA State Championships since the last time they were held in South Florida at Dolphin Stadium and FIU in 2005 and 2006.

COACH’S WORD – MATT DUBUC